Christmas cards have been arriving in our letter box. I’ve even sent some – ten, I think. Most received cards have details on the back telling of what charity is supported by the selling and purchasing of the card. I guess that’s a good thing.
Three cards we’ve received have included long (photo-copied) letters telling of the senders’ activities over the past year. I can’t help but sigh when one of these ‘Look at what we’ve done’ letters appears. Is it really anything to do with Christmas? Or is it more a (yearly) chance to brag about achievements?
The ‘news’ is nearly always about travel undertaken, travel plans, happy occurrences and great achievements of family members. Anything that is not a positive happening is made into something that has been coped with successfully. ‘Look how well we’ve done!”
A repeat offender in this annoying ‘family letter’ habit is a mother of four (grown) children. Each and every year we receive a missive about the family’s doings, but one child (a quite unlikeable grown man!) is mentioned in about 90% of the letters; his praises sung and his achievements lauded. The other three members of the family are seemingly just mentioned in passing. This has been the pattern for years – decades even! So sick of hearing about him!
Any connection with Christmas here? Nup!
Another tedious letter tells us about a couple’s house moving and the unsatisfactory workings of the new stove and the creaking new floorboards. Really? Also, a member of this family underwent minor surgery and found that ‘sipping ginger beer’ gave him more pain relief than ‘unhelpful heavy medication’ provided by the hospital. Really?
Am I interested? Nup!
From now on I will not let these letters annoy me; instead I will have a big laugh and just toss them out.
Happy Christmas everyone!
I have been wondering about so many of us complaining of all the stress of Christmas - and how it could be seen in a different way.
Could we make it a chance to remind us a little bit of the Christmas spirit: I mean the ‘thinking of others’ idea?
That’s probably not a novel approach, I know, but I’m trying to equate what is going on around me with the origin of Christmas.
Can we make thinking of others more real and even heartfelt?
Yes, I know there are many people who do think of others more than themselves, but I am also hearing lots of moans about ‘necessary’ gift buying.
Could we turn what seems to be the ‘chore’ of gift buying into a privilege - and something we really want to do?
Few people seem to be thinking of the biblical story of the first Christmas. Sure, there are token carols blasting out from the sound systems in shopping malls; carols interspersed with other ‘Christmassy’ music such as the execrable ‘Chestnuts roasting by and open fire’ (totally inappropriate in the subtropics of Australia for any season, by the way). But, right now, Christmas seems mostly all about buy, buy, buy and spend, spend, spend and Santa, Santa, Santa and what the hell will I get for….
Okay, so over time we’ve lost much of the meaning of Christmas but perhaps there is something we can do to (ever-so-slightly) alleviate this mad gift-buying botheration. Perhaps there is a way to make us stop and think more calmly about those who are near and dear to us – the very people we are buying gifts for.
The chore of thinking of and then buying a gift for someone is a deed done for someone else and (especially at this time) not for us, so let’s think of it like that. Think of each gift as A GIFT.
It is a privilege to have someone to whom you need show your love at Christmas time by giving a gift. Think of it that way. Turn bother into pleasure.
The (some time) added pain of having to find the money to replace funds in a credit card that has been maxed out by Christmas shopping could also be looked at as an accepted and almost welcome sort of ‘price we have to pay’ for the privilege of Christmas. Is that too crazy an idea? I mean having to pull back a little in the New Year due to our Christmas spending and to think of ways to, in the coming year, be more thoughtful and careful in our spending?
(Remember: Something given that hurts the giver a little – and yet is not complained about - is considered a better gift by some).
Could we, as a result of (thoughtless and worry-inducing) Christmas spending, be less of a consumer in the coming year?
Could we continue to think more of others – and value them – and think less of ourselves?
And carry the Christmas spirit further?
And…be grateful that we have the money to spend - even if we are still paying it off in 2016!?
I think Steven Pinker’s book about “Our Better Angels” mentions the ‘better angels’ of:
Just four attributes we should all cultivate at this time of year ~ and then have a
There was once an old song – no longer heard - and written way back in about the 1940s. It was called – or at least some of it went like this, ‘You’ve got to accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative…’
And that’s what I wish everyone would do more of today.
Hands up if you’re sick of hearing nothing but ‘doom and gloom’ in television and radio reports lately. Newspapers are full of horror, terror, sad news and scandal.
Surely there’s more to what’s going on than that.
Or ask the question, ‘is there anything positive happening in the world?’
‘Any happy news?’
Of course there is.
I attended a school graduation night not so long ago and the principal’s speech, contained not only accompanying relevant, yet humorous, graphics, but was full of happy, positive and affirmative messages of what had been happening at the school and what was likely to be in the future.
It raised the mood of all in the auditorium to a higher level. (Something not often achieved at a school ‘Speech Night’!)
Imagine if we had politicians who were able to convey such messages.
Imagine if the media in all its forms relayed mostly stories of accomplishment and hope and positive reinforcement of daily happenings.
Sure, we have the little ‘puff’ pieces of kittens being rescued from drainpipes and small children doing good deeds – I suspect mainly because of the photo opportunities.
But what of world deeds?
And, yes I did read about Angela Merkel being named Time’s ‘Person of the Year’ – and well deserved too.
But…but…is it too much to ask for the media (and politicians) to relate information that puts a different slant on current world events? Stop the alarming headlines and public rants about the horrors of terrorism and tell more of the good that is being done throughout the world.
Put the positive events in the page 1 headlines and put the awful stuff into page 5, instead of the other way round.
Have the affirmative news be the first (screaming) announcement on the tv news and hide the awful stuff near the end.
Am I being naïve? Possibly
But, although it may not be the ‘usual’ or ‘acceptable’ way, maybe it could help avoid upsetting, alienating and angering some of the young and susceptible.
And, another thing – though I’m sure that it’s way too late and it’s a ‘the horse has bolted’ situation. But…but…who was it who decided to make almost all computer games full of shooting and killing? Not the kids, I’m sure.
To quote journalist Phillip Adams, in The Australian newspaper a short while ago, ‘killing people remains the most popular form of mass entertainment’.
How dreadful - but true - is that?
And, come to think of it, who decides that a film such as ‘Mad Max: Fury Road’ deserves an Oscar? A film that uses (again quoting Philip Adams) ‘lurid violence as slapstick’ while ‘critics who should have known better (and thought deeper) laughed along’.
Could we even dream of replacing violence with happy constructive ‘adventure’?
Imagine if most computer games had a rewarding HAPPY (still ‘victorious’) outcome and most movies and tv shows consisted of positive, uplifting stories.
But they don’t and they won’t!
What a sorry state the world is in.
Is it too much to ask for those responsible for broadcasting to the masses, to
‘accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative’ – even a little?
PS: I believe that the second verse of the old song goes something like:
‘You've got to spread joy up to the maximum, bring gloom down to the minimum’
How about it?
AND PLEASE MAY THE PARIS CLIMATE CHANGE TALKS RESULT IN SOME REAL, LASTING AND POSITIVE DEEDS!
Disputes over possession of land, over religion, over ideals - and ideas - have persistently escalated into war over the centuries.
“All war is a symptom of man's failure as a thinking animal.” wrote John Steinbeck.
But nothing changes except the methods used to fight and to kill ‘the opposition’.
We have now come to the point where, instead of spears, instead of bows and arrows, cannons and gun ships, we have the most sophisticated, murderous and unspeakable weapons never before imagined.
Someone has designed and devised these terrible tools of war.
Forever there have been creative men (mostly men) who have used their knowledge and skills to develop weapons with the sole purpose of destroying nations and the people therein.
Why would they do that?
Why would they use fine skills for such heinous purpose?
Because if they didn’t, someone else (from the ‘enemy’s side) may have?
In the 1950s, USA president Dwight D. Eisenhower stated:
“Every gun that is made, every warship launched, every rocket fired signifies in the final sense, a theft from those who hunger and are not fed, those who are cold and are not clothed. This world in arms is not spending money alone. It is spending the sweat of its laborers, the genius of its scientists, the hopes of its children. This is not a way of life at all in any true sense. Under the clouds of war, it is humanity hanging on a cross of iron.”
Is this statement any less meaningful today – 60 years later?
And yet still we never learn.
Forever, young boys, after imagining the heroics of war and the suggested adventures, have eagerly raced off to join in the fighting.
This is not something new.
In a different and terrifying method to help destroy the 'enemy', we are now seeing boys (for they are mostly only boys) join the likes of IS after being encouraged to do so by ‘brainwashing’ (people say).
This is somewhat different from the youngsters who altered their ages to join the armed forces in World War 1. It differs by the methods used to recruit them. But it is perhaps also very different because of the way boys can be used as human weapons, in that they are loaded up with ‘suicide vests’ and sent off to deliberately die. (I don’t think that the boys and young men in the trenches of World wars were deliberately set up – but I may be wrong).
However, the dreadful facts remain that war and the destroying of societies and the purposeful killing of others (it’s murder, after all) has always been with us.
That is hard to accept, but true.
“There is no flag large enough to cover the shame of killing innocent people.” (Howard Zinn - American historian)
PS: After this blog I plan to attempt writing on happier subjects – to stop depressing my readers as much as myself!
I choose to comment on social issues and write creatively on a variety of subjects - for a variety of audiences.